Embarkation was a snap. I had filled out my FunPass in advance, so it was just a quick check in at the counter and we were on the ship immediately. We walked around the ship to see all the different areas. While we were at Camp Carnival, we filled out the paperwork for our 4 year old. We went to the buffet in the Paris Restaurant for lunch and had sandwiches from the deli. By the time we were done with both, our bags were in front of our door. We stopped by Club O2 (the club for 15-17 year olds), but there was no registration necessary, then moved on to dinner in the Elation Dining Room. We did the Open Seating for dinner and for us, it worked very well, as dinner is more about eating and less about socializing for us. At our first dinner, our 4 year old was with us, but she wanted to go back to Camp Carnival instead of eating, so I took her back to camp before dessert was served. The rest of the cruise, she ate with Camp Carnival in the Paris Restaurant and was happy to do it.
The stewards made the beds and cleaned the room twice a day and did a great job. They made different towel animals each night.
Dinners in the dining room were good. I had the flat iron steak, prime rib, pork loin, and the grilled chicken and all were good. It's not quite 5 star dining, but above average in my opinion. The salads were solid, but not quite at the level of the entrees. My wife and daughter ordered the chocolate melting cake every night and as confirmed chocaholics, loved it. I usually just ordered ice cream and sorbets for dessert as I was full after the appetizers and main course. My wife said the flat iron steak wasn't as good the night she ordered and the tilapia was just OK, but enjoyed the lobster and shrimp on formal night quite a bit. The servers were always friendly and service was always good.
We ate breakfast in the dining room every morning, which meant that we had to drag ourselves out of bed to get up there by 10:00 (with a toddler, we cherish every moment of sleep we can get). Generally speaking, breakfast was pretty solid with the exception of the scrambled eggs, which looked processed and were not tasty. The servers are friendlier at dinner than they are at breakfast, though not unpleasant by any means.
The buffet in the Paris Restaurant was underwhelming, in my opinion. No buffet can really hope to compare with made to order food, but even allowing for that, most of the selections just wouldn't have appealed to me whether they were items on a menu or in a buffet. The pizza is pretty good and the deli adequate, but the Taste of Nations section (where they feature a different type of cuisine each day) really didn't show much inspiration in my opinion. I did have some sliced roast beef with au jus gravy that was decent on the first day. The salad bar is adequate, but not memorable. They also have soft serve ice cream which is again, adequate, but not memorable. There is also a Mongolian grill on the pool deck and a burger/hot dog stand, but these are OK at best.
We also purchased soda cards for myself and my teenager, but even as a confirmed sodaholic, it's really unlikely that you will drink enough soda to make this a worthwhile purchase, especially if you are planning to eat lunch in port each day. You would have to stay on the ship the whole time and drink about 5 sodas a day.
The single greatest thing about this cruise, without question, is Camp Carnival. Our 4 year old couldn't wait to go every day and spent as much time as she possibly could there. They did face painting, watched movies and shows, and played with toys. If your toddler wears you out as mine does, this is a great way to get some alone time from your toddler. You'll still spend plenty of time with your child when they close for dinner and lunch, but you'll have plenty of opportunity to do activities that interest you while your child enjoys playing with other kids. The planned activities at Club O2 didn't really appear to appeal to my teenager; however, the first night did allow an opportunity for her to meet up with other kids her age and they made plans to meet on their own during the nights.
The public areas of the ship are well maintained and clean, but they do show their age to a certain extent (especially the bars and lounges). Still, I was amazed at how clean they managed to keep everything. To some extent, there is a small antiseptic scent from all the cleaning that the staff does, but it results in a clean ship. We are not big drinkers or gamblers, so we weren't in the bars much and not in the casino at all so can't speak much for those areas. We did go to see a song and dance show on the third night. We thought it was a bit cheesy, but if you like productions like those, it may be more your speed than it was for us. We didn't see the comedians or the hypnotist, as we picked up our toddler from Camp Carnival at 10 rather than pay for after hours babysitting at the camp so we could make the shows.
My wife and teenager both got spa treatments. My wife did a 3 treatment for $90 package that she really enjoyed (especially the back facial which ended up being a full body salt scrub). My teenager did the $50 teen spa which ended up being a do-it-yourself thing where the spa attendants taught the girls how to apply different products to themselves rather than a typical spa treatment thing which was really more about pushing the overpriced spa products than anything else. She would have been much happier with just a regular spa treatment.
We didn't do any of the ship shore excursions - we just went ashore and found stuff to do on our own. Ensenada doesn't have much to offer unless you like drinking in bars or shopping for knockoffs, but my teenager and I went ashore for awhile so she could say she had been in Mexico.
There are 3 smallish pools on the ship (including one with a large slide), but I kinda wish they had fewer pools that were larger rather than more small pools. The small pool was great for my toddler to splash around in, but they really aren't good for more than sliding into on the slide or for cooling off quickly as they are all 3-4 feet deep. There were lots of places on the deck to lay out and tan or to sit on the deck and do whatever (read, drink, play cards/dominoes). There is also a separate Adults Only area with two jacuzzis in the back of the boat.
As far as onboard activities go, there wasn't much that appealed to us. The deck activities are pretty cheesy for the most part.
The one thing that detracted from our cruise was that the norovirus hit our family hard at the end. My teenager got it on the third day and my toddler and I got it on the final night. All in all, there are better nights to be sick to your stomach than the night before you have to be up early the next morning waiting in the public areas for your number to be called so you can leave the ship. But I don't fault Carnival for this, it was just unfortunate luck on our part. Needless to say, we'll be more fanatical about keeping our hands clean on our next cruise.
I would recommend this particular cruise to people on a budget and people who just like to relax on the boat. If you are looking for a cruise with interesting activities/amenities or interesting activities in port (particularly Ensenada, which doesn't have much in the way of interesting tourist-oriented excursion options).